In the American heartland during the Great Depression, the provincial existence of a rural farming family hinges upon the high school graduation of the eldest daughter, Laurie Moss. However, on the eve of her graduation, Laurie finds herself questioning her place in the world and wondering what kind of life she could lead if she were to leave the farm. Her restlessness is fueled by two drifters, Top and Martin, who are hired to help with the harvest. While Ma and Grandpa Moss are suspicious of the strangers, Laurie is captivated by their vivid tales of travel, and she and Martin quickly fall in love, culminating in a tender kiss at Laurie’s graduation party. Grandpa Moss, furious, banishes the two men, leading Martin and Laurie to make plans to elope, but Martin quickly realizes that this would cause trouble for all involved, and reluctantly sneaks away before daybreak. Heartbroken, Laurie realizes that, though now alone, it is still time for her to go. She bids farewell to the farm and sets off into the unknown, leaving her weeping family to completely reassess their hopes, dreams, and plans for the future. A vivid portrait of the rural mid-west, The Tender Land is painted richly with Copland’s quintessentially American harmonies and tells a beautiful and simple story of a young woman’s coming of age.
The Tender Land guide sections